Anxiety, bedtime and mating: how animals may react to the eclipse| Trending Viral hub

As millions of people prepare to watch the total solar eclipse that will sweep across North America on Monday, animals in that affected area – in homes, farms, zoos and in the wild – missed the news that the moon blocks the sun, briefly turning day into night.

How they react to that rapid and unexpected change in light and temperature, which in some places will last up to four and a half minutes, is anyone’s guess.

The cows can enter their stalls at bedtime. Flamingos can huddle together out of fear. The Galapagos giant tortoise, which moves in slow motion, can even get frisky and mate.

Circadian rhythms can take a noticeable hit, as nocturnal animals mistakenly wake up and start their day only to realize that, oops, the night is already over. And then there will be some animals, perhaps particularly lazy house cats or wild boars focused on searching for food, who may not think twice about the dark sky.

“Everyone wants to see how they’re going to react,” said Robert Shumaker, CEO and president of the Indianapolis Zoo, which will experience nearly four minutes of darkness. It is one of several prominent zoos situated along the path of totality, a gentle arc stretching from Texas to Maine, where researchers, animal keepers, volunteers and the public will study animals’ response to the eclipse.

Dr. Shumaker, an expert in animal behavior and cognition, said that “most animals, of course, will notice that something unusual is happening.”

Most animals will probably be confused by the darkness and begin their nighttime routines, said Dr. M. Leanne Lilly, a veterinary behaviorist at Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

But the way humans react to the eclipse (looking at the sky, expressing excitement, or gathering in a group) could affect domesticated animals, like dogs or cats, because pets may act strangely when their humans act strangely. said Dr. Lilly.

“That can make any of our pets feel like things are not as safe and predictable as they are supposed to be,” Dr. Lilly said, adding that any unusual human behavior can be upsetting to pets because they are “domesticated to take care of us.” “

“We could be the problem,” he said, laughing.

How animals will react to solar eclipses can only give clues to animal behavior because the relatively few studies on the topic are often contradictory. A study from 1560 cited that “birds fell to the ground.” Other studies said the birds went to sleep, stayed silent, continued singing and cooing, or flew directly into houses. The dogs barked or whined, or they didn’t bark or whine.

A study of the 1932 eclipse, which was thought to be the first comprehensive investigation conducted on the subject and included observations from the public, explained that it received “a large number of conflicting testimonies” from people who had observed mammals. He concluded that several animals showed the strongest responses: squirrels ran into the woods and cattle and sheep headed for their barns.

The zoo animals, according to the study, showed little or no response, and Dr. Shumaker does not expect the Indianapolis Zoo animals to show an unusual response, because “they take a lot of things in stride.”

“We’re thinking it will be a very informal and easy experience for the animals,” he said, adding that some might experience “a little confusion” about what’s going on. “I certainly don’t anticipate it being alarming for them.”

Dr. Shumaker is as curious as anyone to see what animals will do, and in 2017, Adam Hartstone-Rose, now a professor of biological sciences at North Carolina State University, tried to get some answers. Before that total solar eclipse crossed the United States, he launched a formal study of animals at the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden in Columbia, SC, and it resulted in what was likely the largest study of animals during an eclipse since the effort of 1932.

Just as he will do next week at the Fort Worth Zoo, Dr. Hartstone-Rose brought together a group of researchers, animal keepers and volunteers to observe the animals before, during and after totality.

About three-quarters of the 17 species his team studied, including mammals, birds and reptiles, showed a behavioral response to the eclipse, and many of those animals thought the change in light meant it was time to get ready for bed. A smaller group of animals, including giraffes, baboons, gorillas, flamingos, parrots (a type of parrot), and a Komodo dragon, showed unusual behavior that could be interpreted as anxiety.

According to the study, the baboons ran around their enclosure as totality approached, and one walked in circles for about 25 minutes. A male gorilla charged the glass. The flamingos huddled together, surrounded their young, vocalized loudly and looked up at the sky, which is “the kind of thing they might do if they think there’s an aerial predator nearby,” Dr. Hartstone-Rose said.

The lorikeets became active and noisy just before totality, and during totality they flew together to the side of their exhibit. A Komodo dragon ran to its den, but the door was closed and it “ran erratically” until daylight returned.

He noted that it was “entirely possible” that the behaviors were triggered not by the eclipse, but by large crowds and noises at the zoo, which included fireworks exploding in the distance.

However, the giraffes’ behavior that day in South Carolina was similar to the animals’ behavior in other places during eclipses, including the Nashville Zoo in 2017, and also in the wild in Zambia during a 2001 eclipse.

“Most of us were expecting the giraffes to say, ‘Oh, it’s dark,’ so it’s time to sleep,’” said Alyson Proveaux, curator of mammals at Riverbanks Zoo and one of the 2017 giraffe watchers. But His reaction was much more dramatic.

Typically, the giraffes at Riverbanks Zoo chew on lettuce, chew their cud, pace around or play with their enrichment toys. But when the sky darkened, according to the study, they stopped eating and huddled in the back of their enclosure, while one walked and swayed. As daylight slowly returned, several took to galloping for several minutes, which was extremely out of character. Giraffes also galloped during the eclipse at the Nashville Zoo and in Zambia.

“They are creatures of habit,” Proveaux said. “So we just rocked their world.”

Elsewhere at Riverbanks Zoo, Galapagos tortoises did something even stranger just before totality that the study described as a “novel response.” Instead of slowly moving around their area like they usually do, they grouped together and two began mating. During totality, the four turtles moved faster than usual.

Dr. Hartstone-Rose is curious to see if these responses will be echoed by animals at the Fort Worth Zoo, where he will likely be monitoring bonobos, which are similar to chimpanzees. He said that bonobos often exhibit sexual behavior to relieve anxiety and that it will be fascinating to see their response to unexpected darkness.

He too is asking the public to formally observe the animals that surround them during the eclipse and present those findings to you so you can include them in your study. Those animals include pets, livestock, and wild animals, which are also known to alter their behavior during eclipses.

Scientists have used different types of technology to record the responses of wild animals to an eclipse. For the 2017 solar eclipse, scientists used radar data from weather stations across the country to study how flying animals responded when day turned to night.

They found that as the sky darkened, the amount of biological activity in the atmosphere decreased, suggesting that insects were landing and birds were beginning to roost. In some places, there were also brief pulses of activity during totality, when some nocturnal creatures, which may have included bats, some insects, and birds that migrate at night, came to life.

Still, the brief episode of darkness did not seem significant enough to fully convince the animals that night had arrived. “It’s kind of a silent response,” said Andrew Farnsworth, a visiting scientist at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and an author of the study.

Some animals, including many butterflies, are especially sensitive to temperature. During the eclipse of 2017Robert Michael Pyle, an ecologist and butterfly expert from southwest Washington, spent hours carefully record the conditions in his garden and when the temperature dropped, the forest manakins, a species of common butterfly, disappeared. “Two degrees puts butterflies back in bed,” she said.

Although they have been the subject of less research, plants, which require the sun to sustain themselves, are also affected by eclipses. “As the sun goes down, photosynthesis slows down,” said Daniel Beverly, an ecophysiologist at Indiana University who documented that slowdown in the big sagebrush during the 2017 eclipse. The findings highlight the importance of circadian rhythms beyond the animal kingdom, he said.

And careful observations of what organisms do during an eclipse can yield new insights that extend beyond the event itself. The eclipse “is kind of a natural experiment, manipulating light and temperature on a large scale,” said Candace Galen, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Missouri, who found that the bees remained silent during the entire period in 2017.

In the end, Dr. Hartstone-Rose said, “who knows what goes on in a giraffe’s head.” But her goal is to collect as much data as possible to try to find out.

You have a definitive answer to a question you’re asked over and over again: During an eclipse, should you put goggles on your dog?

“As a fashion statement, I’m all for it, so go ahead,” she said. “But as a safety measure, no, that’s not something they should do. “Animals don’t look at the sun.”

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